Welcome to the Metro New York Synod! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a born-and-bred Midwesterner from Indiana, although I’ve spent my adult life on both coasts. I came to New York from California, where I had been serving as a parish pastor. My love and concern for the church made me want to study the significant cultural trends facing us today, so I accepted a fellowship at Union Theological Seminary. After completion of my program at Union last spring, a position at Lutheran Ministries in Higher Education (LMHE) opened up. I’m excited to be the Lutheran Religious Life Advisor serving Columbia University.
What brought you to consider a call to campus ministry?
I think it’s absolutely the frontlines of ministry in the church today. The ELCA’s average member is 10 years older than the average person in the United States. That makes campus ministry even more significant for the present and future of the wider church.
Tell us about your role as a Religious Life Advisor.
Being a Religious Life Advisor means I have a dual role. In part, it means that I’m an employee of Columbia University, participating in a pluralistic and interreligious environment. The bigger part of what that means is that I serve the Metro New York Synod as well as the Atlantic District of the Missouri Synod and the LMHE board to identify and work with college students and young adults in all of metro New York. Though my college campus is Columbia, I often find myself in local congregations or in diners talking with young adults about vocational and faith discernment. One of the ways in which LMHE is seeking to grow is to have a greater partnership with local congregations. We would like to be able to help pastors and youth workers better serve the young people and families within their congregations.
What does your work with students entail?
One of the most exciting things about working with Lutheran college students is that I get a chance to be with people in transition. The theme that we’ve adopted for this year is taken from a Martin Luther quotation about spiritual identity. In it, he says that "in this life we are becoming…" which I take to mean that we are like people in process. I work with a group of 20 Columbia students and perhaps 30 other young people throughout the synod, helping them process what it means to be "in process." On campus, that means Sunday chapel services and dinners, Tuesday Book & Bible Studies, and Friday Finding Faith Field Trips. Each component builds upon one another. The gospel introduced on Sunday is studied in depth at Book & Bible Study, and on Friday the theme is experienced by an encounter. These programmatic events—as well as conversations in coffee shops—help focus what it means to be people of faith and what it means to be Lutheran.
How does serving in campus ministry differ from being a pastor called to a traditional parish?
One of the things it means is that there is more intentionality on focusing on cultural relevance to a particular generation. College students are far less concerned about the preservation of a religious environment and all the good and bad that that can mean. They are concerned, however, with events occurring in each of their private lives—dating, vocational discernment, faith formation, studying—and they read current events with a close eye for what this means for them and our world.
What do you like to do for fun?
The most enjoyable thing I do right now is spend time with my fiancée, Vanessa. We enjoy watching movies, taking walks, and she’s an amazing cook so I love eating whatever she makes!
What goals do you have for this year?
On campus, one goal is to create a service component for students to be active volunteers within the community, specifically in Lutheran congregations. Another goal is for the students to take greater ownership and direction for the programs. On a bigger level, our goal is to expand the reach of LMHE, to work with local congregations and their young adult populations.